For any football manager, there will forever be that one player that will remain in the thoughts throughout their career in the game. The superstar they signed to turn the tides in their respective league. For Queen’s Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp, that player was former Arsenal hero Paul Merson during his time with Portsmouth.
The veteran boss signed the midfielder during his first stint with the south coast club in 2002 and it proved to be an astute acquisition, with the Arsenal legend netting 12 times during his 45 appearances for Portsmouth, helping them to the 2002/03 first division title and promotion to the Premier League.
“I also signed Paul Merson - he was fantastic, but he was a nightmare as well,” Redknapp said at an exclusive charity event. “We hadn’t had a game for two weeks, we were out of the cup and top of the Championship with Portsmouth, flying away with the league and Merson was scoring goals and was the best player in the league by miles.”
The veteran boss recalled a tale of the 44-year-old, which further reinforced his opinion that he was a nightmare, with Redknapp saying: “He came to see me and he said ‘Gaffer, I have a problem with the drinking, the gambling and the women’ and I said ‘Oh, I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself Merson’.
“He said ‘Can I have a week in Tony Adams’ clinic?’ so I said ‘Yeah, no problem Merse – we don’t have a game for two weeks’. ‘Well if I go after the game Saturday, I’ll be back for training the following Monday’.
“‘Yeah no problem Merse, I hope you get yourself sorted out’. Anyway, on the Wednesday I got a call from a friend of mine in Barbados, he said ‘I’ve just seen one of your players’. This friend was there with his family and I’m thinking to myself ‘One of my players? It can’t be’.
“My friend said ‘Yeah, Paul Merson’. Anyway, Merson came back on the Monday, and you can imagine it’s the middle of the winter, the middle of January, and he’s so brown, you’ve never met anyone so brown in your life and he was supposed to be at Tony Adams’ clinic. But anyway, I can’t tell you the rest of the story, but that was Merse.”